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Shortly after Sept. 11, U Street’s Velvet Lounge held a fundraiser. The night was a flop: Customers drank hundreds of dollars’ worth of booze from the open bar but donated only about $40. “I was disgusted,” says Jesse Boone, 31, a musician in local band 555, who later heard about the dud evening from the club’s owner.
So Boone decided to try a different tactic. After months of begging bands to donate tracks and studios to front the costs, Boone last week released Rock School, a benefit CD that compiles the music of 17 D.C. and New York bands that play everything from ska to alt-country. Three of the acts featured on the album—Banana Fish Zero, 555, and Poseur Bill—performed for a crowd of about 200 people at the Black Cat last Friday night. The evening’s $1,500 in proceeds, as well as future profits from the sale of the record, will go to the Citizens Scholarship Foundation of America, a nonprofit based in Minnesota set up to help cover college tuition for children who lost parents in the attacks.
“We wanted to appeal to a community who ordinarily aren’t the kind writing checks to the Red Cross or wherever,” says Boone. “It’s nice to bring another demographic into the picture.”
Rock School’s tracks are topical, but only some were written after Sept. 11. One band suggested including a song called “Terrorist Network,” which it had written before the attacks; even though it wasn’t about terrorism—”I still have no idea what it’s about,” Boone admits—Boone excluded it from the record. “I wanted [the album] overall to have a good feeling,” he says, “not bitter or finger-pointing.”
The tuition fund’s ultimate goal is to raise $100 million. If Boone sells 800 more CDs by the summer (he sold about 100 at last Friday’s show), he’ll press more. “We’re a drop in the bucket,” he says, “but a lot of drops are going to fill it up.” —Rachel K. Sobel
For more information, visit www.rockschool.org.